C S Lewis did not deny that God uses doctrine about Christ to spiritually reveal Christ. Nor did he deny the use of Scripture to teach this non-denial. What he did deny, however, was the use of Scripture alone to reveal Christ. He argued instead that God also uses doctrine found in the world’s various religious myths and legends to spiritually reveal Christ.
Lewis banked his entire life and career on the notion that every story had as its ancient progenitor one story, one true account given by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden. He believed that this one true story given to Adam in the Garden of Eden had become corrupted by most cultures as it found itself passed down from generation to generation, but that somewhere in the myths and legends of those cultures, a germ of truth yet remained. This meant that a germ of truth could be found in every religion, and that every story, if one looks hard enough, points to the one true story from whence it ultimately originates.
Lewis was not alone in this notion. It had been a notion held for some time, centuries in fact, long before Lewis arrived on scene. George MacDonald, the nineteenth century Scottish minister had held to it. In fact, it was through MacDonald’s fiction that Lewis first encountered the idea. Later, friend and fellow Oxford professor, J. R. R. Tolkien, the Roman Catholic author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, challenged him with this notion while using the analogy of a shattered mirror to convey the idea. Some broken pieces reflect more of the truth than others, argued Tolkien, but all of it points to a mirror that reflects the one true story. Lewis would come to appreciate the writings of G K Chesterton, the unapologetic Roman Catholic who made no qualms about his hatred for Calvinism. Chesterton not only shared Lewis’ notion, he positively relished it, taking care to pen a number of myths himself that he believed held a kernel of truth. It wasn’t long before Lewis did the same, beginning first with a re-imagining of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, before working his way right on through to his now infamous, seven-volume children’s series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”.
Was Lewis right? Can a person learn the truth about Christ by reading the Chronicles of Narnia? To hear most people today who call themselves Christian, he was indeed.
We may at this point be tempted to quote a few verses like Psalm 119:105 or 2 Timothy 3:16, but these texts will not help us. Neither Lewis nor his legion of readers deny these texts. What they deny is that the word “word” is synonymous with Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone. What they deny is that all Scripture alone is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. What they deny is that Scripture alone is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Lewis’ insidious notion is what leads most people today to conclude that they would rather “see a sermon than hear one.” Such people do not deny doctrine. They do not deny, for instance, that Christ came in the flesh, or that Christ was born of a virgin, or that He died, or that He rose, or that He ascended. In fact, they assert that anyone who does deny this and yet claims to be a Christian is a liar. Yes, they claim they would rather see a sermon than hear one, but they do not altogether deny doctrine. What they deny instead is the fact that true doctrine is revealed by Scripture alone. What they believe instead is that true doctrine can be found in all sorts of other locations too – fictional stories, cultural mores, philosophies, science, moral behavior, interpersonal relationships and so on.
I once heard a minister traveling with Bishop Desmond Tutu state that there is as much theology in the Chronicles of Narnia as there is in the New Testament. In fact, this same minister, who was one of the nation’s leading Charismatic teachers, mandated that all his Bible students read through the Chronicles of Narnia once a year. Did this man deny the necessity of doctrine? Not at all! Certainly he denies true doctrine, not because it is true, but rather because it is revealed by Scripture alone. He does not, however, deny the necessity of doctrine.
The necessity of doctrine is not the problem. The necessity of Sola Scriptura is. By rejecting Scripture alone, all sorts of false doctrine has taken root. Pitting doctrine against doctrine is not going to do much good if we continue to ignore the root of the problem. When is the last time you heard a believing pastor or minister preach on the necessity of doctrine? Probably last week, right? Now contrast this with the last time you can recall hearing a believing pastor or minister preach on the necessity of Scripture alone. Is that the sound of crickets I hear?
I am afraid some of us have emphasized the necessity of doctrine to the near exclusion of the necessity of Scripture alone, with the result that maybe now more than ever, most people have no idea why they should agree with our doctrine rather than anyone else’s. If our theology does not begin with the establishment of the Bible alone as the sole source of all truth, then our theology is as ineffectual and useless as a wagon without wheels.